Tag Archive | "Korea"

Interview – Foreigner Playing Ball in Korea – Brett VanHoose


Recently Brett VanHoose, an American living and teaching in Korea, sat down to answer some questions about playing baseball in Korea.  He plays in an adult baseball league here in Daegu.  I’d like to thank Brett for taking the time out if his busy schedule.  Here is what he had to say….

Tell us a little bit about your baseball background. Did you play in college? Did you ever aspire to play professionally?

I have played recreational baseball since I was five years old from Pee Wee to Pony League; played on several All-star teams during my Little League seasons in Delaware and Morrow County, Ohio – including a traveling team, and later I played four years varsity High School baseball and American Legion Baseball before moving on to college.  I played a spring seasons and a winter season with Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas and Mid-American Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas respectively. I finished my collegiate baseball career in Tampa, Florida with the University of Tampa when I was injured during spring training.

Did you play in adult leagues in the States before moving to Korea?

I played for the Muffins – a historical re-enactment base ball team based out of Columbus, Ohio. I volunteered with the Ohio Historical Society traveling to various locations throughout the state and other locations in and around the region of the country playing base ball games in the setting of the 1860’s.

Have you ever played in any other countries prior to coming to Korea?

I played competitive league softball in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the team I played traveled to various locations throughout the region engaging in multiple events.

How did you come to play with a team in Korea?

I saw a few adults playing in uniform on fields in and around Daegu and I inquired to my Hagwon owner about how to get in touch with them in order to see if they would let me play. She spoke to her nephew who knew of some players and I was able to coordinate a meeting – I met them one Sunday morning and they immediately invited me to play and since I have been asked to play on two other teams as well.

Baseball in Daegu

Tell us a little bit about the league. How many teams are there, and are they all from Daegu?

I can’t tell you much as the language barrier has made it difficult to follow, but if you like you can look at the websites I have provided below – you can see the number of leagues and teams per league. Amazingly enough there is more baseball going on in Daegu than most people know.

Are there any other foreigners playing in your league?

Yes, I have played with a Canadian pitcher last year and against several other Canadians; however, this season in the two leagues I am playing in I haven’t met any other foreigners.

What is the competition like throughout the league? Are there any players who have played at the college or professional level?

League competition as I have seen varies. There are a number of leagues with many skill levels. Yes, there are a number of players who have played higher level baseball and in some leagues hope to move up.

Are there any big differences in the play here in Korea compared to that back home in the States?

Yes, as in just about any athletic event Koreans may participate in – there are very few who focus on developing their skills to play at higher levels. Most sporting activities are for recreation only; however, I must say I have seen some outstanding ball players who have without a doubt put in some hard work to develop their skills.

I have seen you play some catcher and pitcher. How do you get over the language barrier while playing?

It is not easy, although as you may know – most Koreans can communicate substantially more affectively in English than most foreigners can in Korean. So, for the most part I have no problem – helps when teammates understand the game.

Is there a site where we can follow the standings or statistics for your league? (Korean site is okay)

This is my Saturday League (I play for SK Telecom)www.kmball.com and this is my Sunday League (I play for H-Fitness) www.tkabo.or.kr/default.asp

With your knowledge of the game and experience with teaching, have you ever thought of coaching baseball?

Yes, I have coached youth recreational baseball, but I would very much like to coach competitive high school baseball.

Baseball in Daegu

Thanks again to Brett for taking the time to answer some questions. Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks.
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Interview – Matthew Dewoskin of True Stories of Korean Baseball


Matthew Dewoskin has become an authority on Korean baseball.  Along with building up a following on his blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, Matthew writes for a Busan based magazine, Busan Haps. Matthew was kind enough to sit down and take a few minutes to answer some questions on being a foreign journalist in Korea.

You have built up a following with your blog on the KBO. Did you have a favorite team back in the States as well?

Absolutely. I’m a lunatic for the Chicago White Sox team.

Do you still follow the MLB or that team?

I never stopped.

How long have you been in Korea?

About four years.

I have seen other people use your blog as a reference for anyone who wants to follow the KBO. What got you interested in writing about the KBO?

I was frustrated by the lack of KBO info in English, so I decided to start doing it myself. I also wanted to learn the Korean words for baseball terms and blogging helped with that.

Do you get most of your information for your daily updates from Korean websites?

About 95% of it.

How would you compare the KBO to MLB?

The biggest difference is the facilities. Korea hasn’t really put any money into upgrading their facilities since the 80’s and they need it desperately. As far as the on field product, the KBO is about AAA or AA level, but I think a lot of the top talent would do well in the US. We might get a chance to see Hanhwa ace Ryu Hyeon-jin make the jump next year. I think he’d make a great reliever. I’m not sure if he could start every fifth day for 162 games.

You also write for a magazine on the city of Busan, Busan Haps. How did that start?

The editor of the site made me a “Godfather Offer.” He basically said, “Write for me and you could talk to Jerry Royster every week.” Jerry doesn’t always answer his phone and I don’t always have time to chase him, but it’s cool having some access.

When you get the chance to go to games, how receptive are players to a foreign journalist?

I’ve only had a press pass once and I spent more time with Jerry than I did with the players. Lotte DH Hong Seong-heun spoke English and I was able to beg Lee Dae-ho into taking a picture with me. The Giants staff wasn’t very receptive to having non-Koreans hanging around. We weren’t allowed in the press box.

What about the coaches?

Honestly, I didn’t really meet any of them.

Are you able to interview any Korean players?

Funny you ask. There should be an interview with Lee Dae-ho going up at the Busan Haps site sometime soon.

I won’t ask you about any “bad guys” in the league, but I am always interested in hearing who is a really nice guy. Have you come across any in the KBO during your time here?

The few players I’ve met have been absolute gentlemen. I’ve never had a bad experience with a player. Except CJ Nitkowski. All the guys on Lotte were awesome and the few Samsung Lions I’ve met have been great. Samsung manager Sun Dong-yeol is one of the nicest guys on the planet.

How many games do you make it to in a given year?

As many as possible. I’ve only made it to about fifteen this year. Last year I made it to over 30.

Do you have a favorite stadium in the KBO?

Incheon’s Munhak Stadium. It’s by far the best ballpark in the KBO. Beautiful facility. They really made an effort to make Munhak different than the other cookie cutter stadiums in the KBO. The foliage in the outfield. The hydraulic boat for the cheerleaders. The modern upper deck. The wide concourses. It’s like a real stadium.

Thoughts on who might win this year in the KBO?

SK has to be the odds on favorite, but I’m excited to see the Lions in the Korean Series. I think Samsung’s pitching matches up well with SK and the opportunistic Samsung offense should provide enough runs to keep Samsung in the series.

Have you had the opportunity to travel and see baseball overseas anywhere?

I’ve been to a few games in Japan.

Where is the one place you would like to see a baseball game that you havne’t?

I’d really like to see a game in Cuba.

I’d like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer some questions.  If you are interested in learning more about the KBO, head on over to his website, True Stories of Korean Baseball.  There is a lot of good information there.  Also check out his articles for Busan Haps where he covers the Lotte Giants (perhaps the most popular team in Korea).

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Incheon – SK Wyverns and Munhak Baseball Stadium


Last week during my summer vacation, I got the chance to make a trip up to Seoul/Incheon and see the home of the SK Wyverns.  I was glad I made the trip.  Munhak Baseball Stadium is the best stadium I’ve seen in so far in Korea.  I have been to 5 of the 7 used by the KBO, and this one really stands out as the gem of the league.

The stadium was built in 2001 and holds 28,500 people.  Maybe a little small for MLB standards, but this one is nice no matter what league you play in.  The stadium has all the amenities you would normally find in a professional stadium, plus a few extras.  Above the left field stands is a small grassy area where families can spread a blanket and have picnics. In the right field stands there is an area where you can have BBQs.  Both areas were full of patrons on the Friday night I was there.  Two large video boards sit in above the outfield seats and bring you all the information and highlights you need.  The hitters background in center field is a tree lined area where a fountain will go off when a Wyverns player hits a home run.

I was treated to a pitching duel that included former major leaguer Roman Colon of the Kia Tigers. Colon pitched great but in the end would be saddled with the loss.  An error in the first inning would lead to an unearned run, and that would be the difference in the end as SK would beat Kia 2-1.

The SK fans were awesome.  Cheering and screaming the entire game.  The one thing that stood out from the cheerleading was hearing what sounded like the music to New Kids On the Block’s Hanging Tough.   Repeatedly they would play this music while cheering on their team.  Each time it came on I would crack a little smile and think about the little league games I played in.  There was a team I played against and for that would play hanging tough between innings.  Thankfully the league finally banned them from playing music.

One thing I really enjoyed about Munhak Stadium was that with 1 ticket you could walk around just about anywhere in the stadium to sit.  The general admission seats run 8,000 won and run from dugout through the outfield to the opposite dugout.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house.  I watch some of the game from the outfield, to the infield, to the seats high up above home plate.  All were great places to see the game.

There was one fan that stood out.  Anytime there was music, he was waving his hands around in a circular motion like a madman.  It was quite funny to see this guy do this EVERYTIME there was music.  No matter if it was a short 10 second clip of music or for almost 2 minutes between innings, he was going at it and going hard.  Below you will see a picture of him.  I have dubbed him the Wyverns #1 fan.  I took a video of him (I was in the upper deck so he is a little small), but it’s worth a look.  Enjoy.

I highly recommend taking in a game in Incheon if you are ever in Seoul.  It’s just a subway ride away, and you won’t be disappointed.  Take a look at some of the photos I took while at the game.  If you’d like to see more of Munhak Stadium, please check out my Flickr page.

Munhak Baseball Stadium

View from CF Munhak Baseball Stadium

With the SK Wyverns Mascot

SK Wyverns #1 Fan

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Busan – Sajik Stadium and the Lotte Giants


My planned trip to Taiwan fell through, but in the end it opened up a few more opportunities to see some baseball here in Korea.  One of my goals for this year was to see each stadium in the KBO.  Before this past weekend, I had only been able to make it to 3 of the 7 stadiums.  I go to knock two more off the list this past week.

I started off in Busan, home of the Lotte Giants.  The Giants have won the title 2 years but not since 1992.  They are one of the more popular teams in Korea, and inevitably when I ask a student who their favorite team is about half the time it is the Giants.  The Giants dominated the All-Star team this year placing 8 on the starting team for the East.

The Giants play their home games in Sajik Baseball Stadium.  Built in 1985, Sajik holds 28,500 people and is a nice stadium by KBO standards.  I was anxious to finally visit what I have heard is the “Mecca for Baseball” in Korea.  It didn’t disappoint.

The Giants are fighting with the LG Twins for the 4th and final playoff spot this year.  They have a potent offense filled with power hitters, but their pitching is a little susceptible which was on display Thursday night.

The game got out of hand early for Lotte when starting pitcher Lee Jae-gon gave up 7 runs on 3 HRs all in the 2nd inning. Two of the HRs were hit by the Kia Tigers leadoff man Lee Yong-gyu (who had 0 homers heading into the game). Lee Yong-gyu hit a 3-run homer in his first at bat and then a grand slam in his second at bat of the inning.  From there, Kia cruised to a 12-5 victory.

The stadium is very nice for Korean standards, but lacking by western standards.  It was still a nice experience and the weather couldn’t have been any nicer.  The best part of watching games in Busan is the cool nights.  With it being on the coast, it is usually cooler than other parts of the country.  The night I was there a nice breeze was blowing (and judging by the Kia bats it was blowing out).

I highly recommend anyone in Busan to take in a game.  The excitement was electrifying.  Even down 10 runs early, the Giants fans never stopped cheering on their team.  This seems to be pretty standard for the Korean fan, and honestly this is really endearing to me.  Any game back home would be dead silent after the visiting team goes up 10-0 in the 2nd inning, but to the Giant’s fans credit they never gave up.

Stay tuned – next up I will be writing about a trip I made to Incheon to see the league leading SK Wyverns.

‘Till then enjoy a few pictures from Busan.  If you would like to see more, feel free to check out my Flickr page.

Also don’t forget to check out the new video posted on the homepage.  It’s a great manager meltdown from the minors.

Sajik Baseball Stadium Busan, South Korea

Me and the Lotte Giants Mascot

Sajik Baseball Stadium Busan, South Korea

Rally Bags?

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Junior Worlds Baseball Coming to Korea


The International Baseball Federation announced that Seoul will host the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship.  This will mark the first time South Korea has hosted the biannual event.

The tournament will be held from late August through early September for some 600 players aged 18 and under.  Around 20 countries will compete.

South Korea has won the championship a total of 5 times, including the last two, trailing only Cuba with 11 titles.

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International Baseball Travel


My goal is to see baseball all around the world.   I have started my journey here in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea, but many people are not aware of how widespread baseball has become.  The game that Abner Doubleday started, okay so maybe he didn’t, has spread across the globe.  My hope is to experience this great game in as many different places as I can.  So let’s take a look at exactly where I want to travel to see a few games.

Asia

South Korea – There are 8 teams and 7 stadiums in South Korea.  By the end of the year I plan to see each stadium at least once.

Japan – I am planning a 5 day trip to Japan in September.  I hope to take in 4 games at different stadiums in the Tokyo area.  Japan is very expensive so it will be difficult to see all 12 teams.

Taiwan – I am thinking of taking a trip to Taiwan in July.  The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan is a 4 team league that plays at various stadiums around the island.  I hope to take in 3-4 games while there in July.

China – There is a 7 team league in China.  There is a lot of room for baseball to grow here.  I hope to eventually get to China to see some baseball, but it might have to wait till next year.

Philippines – The Phils, as they are affectionately known here in SK by some of the foreigners, has a 6 team league.  It’s a small league with few games, but it is well worth visiting.

Australia

Australia is starting up a new league, with MLB backing, starting in November 2010.  The new league will have 6 teams.  I’d love to try and possibly check this league out after my contract is up in November.  The one problem is plane tickets are so expensive.

Europe

There are a lot of places that play baseball in Europe.  In most of the countries baseball is not huge, but it is starting to grow.  On the international scene nobody really makes a splash, although the Netherlands showed the world they cannot be taken for granted in the last World Baseball Classic.  So here is a list, and a long one, of places I want to go to see some baseball.

(in no particular order)

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • England
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Ireland

The Americas

There is a lot of great baseball in this area.  Of course I want to see every MLB stadium and as many minor league stadiums as I can in the USA, I think there are some hidden gems in other parts.  So here is a list of places I want to visit merely for the baseball.  The great part of this area is all the winter leagues.  While most of the world is taking a break from baseball, Central and South America is just getting warmed up.  I hope to one day see all of the winter leagues available.

  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Panama
  • Venezuela
  • Columbia
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica

There are other places to see games as well.  Even if I only get to see little league games, I want to experience a game in as many places as I can.  Baseball is the one true passion I have.  It’s an amazing sport that can bring together people of different backgrounds and cultures.  As I begin my journey here this year, I hope you will join me.

Have you seen games in any of these countries?  I would be interested in hearing your stories.  If you have, drop me a line and let me know.  I am always interested in hearing feedback, questions, or comments about anything on my site.

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The Little Things


Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring so much pleasure.  As I sit here on Wednesday night, it is nearing midnight.  I am trying to catch up on some things that have been put off for over a week now.  During that week and a half I have had the worst sinus infection of my life.  It took me 3 visits to doctors to get antibiotics, but now I have them and they are starting to work.

So I sit here after work watching the US soccer team struggle to make it to the round of 16, my head, throat, and teeth hurt from my sinus infection but I can’t help but crack a smile.  For today I got a package from home, and in it David Sunflower Seeds.

Now I know many of you might be thinking, what?  These little seeds of joy covered in salt will bring me great pleasure.  There is nothing like being at a game with a bag of seeds, and David makes the best.  I have been unable to find them here in Korea.  Yes, I have been told I might be able to find them in Seoul.  But I don’t live in Seoul.  So having a few bags to hold me over till the end of the year brings a big smile to my aching face.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring so much pleasure.

TBJM

Next Up: My votes for the All-Star teams

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Journey to Seoul


This last weekend I made the train ride up to Seoul to check out some of the baseball action up north.  There are 3 stadiums in the Seoul area, 2 in Seoul and 1 in Incheon.  The plan was to head up Friday and come back late Sunday night while taking in 1 new stadium a night.  My first stop was Mokdong Baseball Stadium in western Seoul.

Mokdong Stadium is home to the NEXEN Heroes.  The Heroes have a strong tradition in the KBO winning the championship 4 times (2nd only to Kia’s 10 titles).  However, this year NEXEN is mired at the bottom of the standings.  On Friday night, NEXEN happened to be playing the Kia Tigers, who again are near the top of the standings.

The game was a very good one.  Both starters had strong performances but came away with no decisions.  The game was tied after 9, and I thought I might see my first ever tie baseball game.  The rules here are a little different than back home.  If the game is tied after 12 innings, the game ends in a tie.  I understand why they have the rule, but I am not a big fan of it.  However, I am one of the fans who not only roots for free baseball (what I call extra innings), but I am one that wants to be at the park to witness the 18 or 20 inning game.

I would not see my first tie game, but I would see another first.  In the top of the 10th Kia would score to go ahead, but NEXEN would not quit.  They tied the game in the bottom half of the inning.  So onto the 11th we would go.  With a quiet half of the inning from Kia, NEXEN came to bat with a chance to win it, and this is where it got interesting.

With 2 outs in the inning and runners on first and second, reliever Lee Dong-hyeon would unleash a wild pitch to put runners at 2nd and 3rd.  But he wasn’t finished.  After walking the batter to load the bases, Lee Dong-hyeon then unleashed a 2nd wild pitch allowing the runner from 3rd to score the winning run.  This was my first walk-off wild pitch at a professional game.  After seeing the replays on TV a few nights later, the catcher didn’t do him any favors.  He simply tried to backhand both pitches, and they both got by him.  Anyway the damage was done and NEXEN walked away with the win.

A few notes about the game and the stadium:

  • The Kia Tigers fans traveled well.  There were a lot of them, they actually outnumbered the Heroes fans, and they were very loud.  Any hit or out was cheered in unison which was very impressive.
  • I arrived early to see batting practice, and as I stood down the left field line I almost got hit by a ball.  It was drizzling so I had my umbrella out when one of the Tigers players hits a screaming line drive home run down the line right at me.  My first instinct was to try and catch it.  Then I realized I was holding my umbrella so I thought of trying to catch it with the umbrella.  I quickly realized this was not a smart thing to do so at the last second I simply moved out of the way.  The ball landed behind me where I picked it up and gave it to one of the two young boys who came running up after it.
  • In the top of the 5th with the score tied 1-1, Kia attempted to run the squeeze play with runners at 1st and 3rd.  They just happened to run it horribly.    A new left handed pitcher had just been brought in, and the first thing he does is throw over to 1st base two straight times.  Both times the Tigers gave away they were running the squeeze.  So what does NEXEN do, pitch out and catch the squeeze play still on.  I thought it was painfully obvious what they wanted to do, and apparently so did the NEXEN manager.

All in all it was a fun night.  The crowd was into the game, and there was enough action to keep it interesting.  I can’t wait to get back and see another game there.

Next time I’ll be talking about my trip to Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, home of the LG Twins and Doosan Bears (yes they share the stadium).  ‘Till then, here are a few pictures from Mokdong Stadium.

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Seoul Searching


This weekend should be an exciting one for me.  I am leaving Colorful Daegu and heading north to Seoul for some weekend baseball action.  There are 3 stadiums in the Seoul area with 2 in Seoul and 1 in neighboring Incheon.

After a train ride north to Seoul, I’ll be heading to Mokdong Stadium to see the visiting Kia Tigers take on the NEXEN Heroes.  This is the smallest stadium of the 3 and that is the reason I wil

l hit it up on Friday.  I hope the weather holds out for the game.  Right now they are calling for rain most of Friday.

Saturday the weather should clear up.  The temps will still hover around 60 degrees which will make for a nice cool evening to see a game.  I’ll be heading to Incheon on Saturday to see Munhak Stadium, home of the SK Wyverns.  SK will be taking on the Lotte Giants.  Right now SK is atop the league with a 15-5 mark.

Sunday will wrap up at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul with a contest between the visiting Hanwha Eagles against the LG Twins.

During the day I will be checking out some of the sites in Seoul that interest me, but the main part of the trip is to check out the stadiums.  I plan to see all 7 in the league, and this trip will put me at 4 if I am able to see all 3.  It should be a good weekend and I will report back here early next week with all the details.

Until then, I hope you get in some baseball as well and have a great weekend.

TBJM

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First Game of 2010


I am sitting on a bus with an older man standing behind me, and all I can think about is how bad he needs a shower.  This was not the way I wanted to start such an important day.

I get up at 11 am and immediately check to see if my camera batteries are charged.  I hear the day going by outside my window, but all I can think about is a hot shower.  I need to get moving because today is a big day.  It’s the first weekend of baseball, and today I am going to see my first game for the year.  First things first though, I look for breakfast.

I head for the bus stop after I stop at Dunkin Donuts for my customary weekend blueberry bagel.  I have my iPod blaring some Jimmy Buffett, and I wait for the bus to take me to the park for the days festivities.  I have been looking forward to this for a few months now, and the excitement continues to build.

As I make the 30 minute trip downtown to the stadium, I can’t help but notice the smell of the gentleman behind me.  I tune it out as best I can.  The anticipation of seeing my first Korean baseball game overrides even the bad B.O. that waifs through the bus.  I arrive near the stadium, and I walk toward the park so giddy I feel like I am skipping.  A young boy walks up next to me and smiles.  I ask him if he likes baseball, and he just smiles.  I doubt he speaks any English.  Today I feel like I am a little boy again going to his first game.  I walk along the road with the sun beating down on my neck, and I can’t help but think about how far I have come in a year.

I remember arriving at the ballpark hoping and praying the rain would stay away.  The weather was not looking good for baseball that day.  I was very excited about finally getting to see Opening Day in Atlanta, home of the Braves.  The weather held off for several hours, and our seats were just under the edge of the overhang in the upper deck.  So there was a slight chance that even with some rain, we might not get too wet.

As the game wore on, the weather slowly turned.  A light rain began to fall, but in the distance the black sky was moving closer.  Then suddenly the sky opened and the downpour began.  Everyone started running for cover as the rain got harder.  We made our way down underneath the stands and started walking around getting a better look at Turner Field. I was a little saddened that I had finally made it to Opening Day in Atlanta, only to have it storm.  The game was postponed in the 4th inning, and would be for just over 2 hours.  By the time they resumed play, my friends and I had made it back to the house to finish watching the Braves win in extra innings on TV.

Today there is no TV, just a beautiful spring day.  We watch the game from behind a section down the right field line, and I boo and cheer with every crack of the bat.  Spring is a beautiful time of year.  It’s a time of rebirth, and a time for baseball.  I realize today that while I am still a stranger in a strange land, for a  few hours we are all cheering for the same team.  I feel the game of baseball brings me a little bit closer to the Koreans I am cheering with.  We may cheer in a foreign language to the other, but I have a feeling we are saying the same things.  A home run is hit, and I give a little nod to a man nearby.  Baseball helps bridge our language gap for this one day.  I really enjoy the experience of today as I walk away from the park.  Thomas and I call over a cab.  It carries us toward our dinner destination, and I can’t help but think of where I might be next year on Opening Day.

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New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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